What brought you to occupational therapy?
I was introduced to occupational therapy during my freshman year of college. At the time, I was studying to be a psychology major. I always knew I wanted to work with kids but wasn’t entirely sure how. I began researching a bit and learned about occupational therapy! I was really drawn to the idea that as an OT I could be helping people (yes, that means kids!) to participate in things they truly wanted to do in their day to day lives. The summer after my freshman year I became completely set on becoming an OT, and I sent in an application to the University of New England (UNE) to become a transfer student. UNE has a Pre-OT Bachelor’s of Science program, and I became really excited to get a sneak peek into the profession. Now, 5 years later, I’m almost finished with my second year of the occupational therapy doctoral program here at Tufts University and I’m confident that this profession is where I was meant to be.
Tell us a little bit about your doctoral project including what you are working on and where you will be located.
For my doctoral project, I will be working with an outpatient pediatric OT clinic focusing on using physical activity as an agent of change for children experiencing sensory processing challenges (SPC). My site mentor created and initially evaluated an intensive group physical activity program for children of all ages. The program is the first of its kind and incorporates elements of OT and exercise to target outcomes such as self-regulation, motor and social skills. Throughout the year, I will be working alongside my site mentor to recruit participants and implement a research study for children ages 5-8 experiencing SPC in the program. During my capstone experience in the winter of 2022, I will be gathering data from the program and its participants, analyzing results, and writing a paper to explore how specific outcomes changed as a result of the program. I am really excited that to be working with a site that is exploring alternative methods for occupational therapy interventions!
What do you hope to accomplish through this DEC project?
The overall goal of this project is to explore how a specific program that incorporates occupation based physical activity can work as an intervention tool for children experiencing sensory processing challenges. I have a love for physical activity, and it has always been my goal to work with children, so I am extremely fortunate that I can combine these two passions into a project. I hope that by implementing this project, I can contribute to the field of occupational therapy in a positive way. It feels really amazing that I am working on a project that is incorporating a truly novel form of OT intervention. I hope that this DEC is just the beginning for my site mentor and their program, and that once we explore its efficacy, and in years to come we will see it grow and expand, being used all over the country, helping to support kids to thrive as they grow and develop!
How do you think this project will help you grow personally and professionally?
There are a million ways I could answer this question. Personally, this project is helping me dive into my passions and explore ways to express myself through doing what I love. This is a topic I truly care about, so I am putting all of my energy into making sure it reflects that depth of caring. Professionally, this project is helping me to make connections and foster my collaboration skills, advocate for myself and my project, and be a part creating something that could potentially influence the way an entire profession views physical activity. When I think of this project, I don’t see it as something that will just “end” when I graduate. I see it as a continuous experience that I will be constantly drawing from and reflecting back on as I grow and develop in my professional career.